Happy Sunday, guys!
Is everyone reading for the Fourth of July weekend? T and I don't really have plans, except to stay in and relax.
(I'm thinking napping + AC + reading = the best possible time, right?)
Today, we're reviewing The Darkest Hour by blog favorite Caroline T. Richmond. It's a wonderful tale about courage and survival - and was recently name-checked in The New York Times, to boot! - and trust me. You do not want to miss this.
Expected publication: July 26th 2016 by Scholastic Press
My name is Lucie Blaise.
I am sixteen years old.
I have many aliases, but I am none of the girls you see.
What I am is the newest agent of the CO-7.
And we are here to take down Hitler.
After the Nazis killed my brother on the North African front, I volunteered at the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, to do my part for the war effort. Only instead of a desk job at the OSS, I was tapped to join the Clandestine Operations -- a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls. Six months ago, I was deployed to German-occupied France to gather intelligence and eliminate Nazi targets.
My current mission: Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out all of Western Europe. Then find and dismantle the weapon before Hitler detonates it. But the deeper I infiltrate, the more danger I'm in. Because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance, and trusting the wrong person could cause millions of lives to be lost. Including my own.
I heard about The Only Thing to Fear, and immediately knew that this was an author I wanted to read. Since then, Caroline has only continued to impress me more and more with each of her projects, as she write stories about fierce, canny girls who are willing to go against the establishment, with a healthy dose of history thrown in.
InThe Darkest Hour, Richmond introduces us to Lucie, who has joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), after her brother's untimely death during WWII. She's pure raw talent intermixed with a ball of rage; she has the skills to help the war effort, but struggles with working in an environment where trust is often fleeting.
An unexpected assignment to track down a traitor who has information about a biological weapon puts Lucie in situations she never imagined, and has her facing dangers she never expected...
What I admire the most about Caroline's writing, is that her books are so carefully plotted and intricately layered. They're never straightforward tales that go from point A to B; instead, they're studies of humanity that resonate at so many different levels.
This was absolutely the case with The Darkest Hour.
While the book is very much a spy story with a ticking clock, it's also a story about personal sacrifice and how one's innate sense of justice can become skewed during a time of conflict. It's not just a case of betrayal and double-crossing, as Richmond is very careful to show that each character is genuinely motivated by the sum of their experiences. Lucie's colleagues are only human, and have very human reactions - whether for better or worse - to the challenges of humanity.
Consequently, it's not surprising to see Lucie to push herself to emotional and intellectual extremes, as she progresses in her journey to find the traitor. Though there's an underlying sense of anger already in her work because of what has happened to her brother, and she struggles with channeling that anger effectively, as she's repeatedly asked to question what's real, and what she's willing to do to get the answers that are needed.
It's an intriguing and emotionally-rich journey, and Richmond will have readers questioning what they might be willing to do in similar situations. There are several instances in which the truth isn't what it seems, and Richmond also presents compelling cases for action and reaction.
Outside of Lucie's core journey, there are action scenes that are thrilling, disturbing and also historically factual. Though the scenes might be harder for younger readers to read, it will very likely encourage them to seek out further sources from the period, which is only a good thing.
Though I've seen some readers express issue with the ending, I think that it's actually very fitting and true to the humanity expressed in the book. It's a reminder that life needs to continue on, especially when you have an active choice between passivity and activity.
All in all, a thrilling, delightful ride.
However, Caroline T. Richmond will always be on the top of that list. She's an immensely gifted writer, who knows how to dig into the heart of a girl's journey in a time of conflict, and presents a compelling story that will draw readers in and won't let them go.
Highly recommend, full stop. This is one you don't want to miss.
(Ends 08/02. No one-word answers.)